Every year, Eric gets 10-15 mailers in his mailbox – advertising Easter services from around town. He realized those mailers went straight from his mailbox to his trash bin. So he opted to do something a bit different this year. Instead of spending the money on costly mailers, they cut their budget in half and put that money elsewhere. They opted for creative communication channels instead of going the traditional route. (This coupled quite nicely with their already non-traditional ideas for the Easter services.)
They started by making a compelling story. They created a mystery man called Phillip Randoll. Phillip was an older missionary living in Belarus for the last eight years. He roasted his own coffee beans and used that as a tool to reach the community. He’d developed friendships with local business owners and youth. He blogged (through the blog his young buddy helped him set up) about roasting the perfect cup of coffee. He had a Twitter account and Facebook account.
They invited their community to meet this man – Phillip Randoll. They created a marketing campaign called “Who is Phillip Randoll” to help. None of the pieces even mentioned Long Hollow or Easter until they got pretty deep into the experience (via the blog and micro website). They wanted the mystery to prevail. And they communicated it with:
- Phillip’s blog
- A micro website
- Social media accounts for Phillip
- Weekly puzzles/giveaways (hosted by his young friend, Walter)
- Video teaser and trailer (online and in services)
- Billboards across town
- Bench ads across town
- Yard signs in their community
- Facebook/Google ad campaign
- Three weeks of newspaper ads
- Thousands of posters
- Thousands of business card sized promo cards
They empowered their congregation to plaster the town with these tools. And because of the mystery element, the congregation had a blast spreading the word. They put them up at their gyms, at local Mexican food restaurants…all over. Even older folks came by the church grabbing armfuls of yard signs to post on properties. They’d say, “I have no idea what this is, but I can’t wait to help spread the word.”
They still weren’t in on the secret. But they knew it would be a good payoff at the end. And they had as much fun promoting the series around town as they did interacting with Phillip Randoll on the social media sites.
Even before the campaign launched, the Long Hollow staff started investing in these social media profiles. Staff members leveraged their personal profiles (with their loads of followers) to retweet Phillip’s messages or post links to his blogs. The staff followed loads of people through Phillip’s Twitter account and got quite a few reciprocal follow backs. They wanted to make connections between the community and Phillip before the actual marketing push. It was yet another thing that added to the mystique of this Phillip Randoll character.
The result? There was a giddy community buzz around the event. The congregation was excited to find out if Phillip was real and what might happen to him. And the community was giving the church a second look in a time when it’s easy for your eyes to glaze over and ignore all the marketing messages.
Pretty cool. And at 50% of their normal budget for this type of thing.